Northern fur seal pups have been washing up on shore in California looking extremely weak and thin over the past few weeks. A Marine Mammal Stranding Center near San Francisco has already taken in 85 of these pups, almost triple the previous record number of 31 pups nine years back. While marine mammal strandings are somewhat of a pattern during El Nino years, the fur seals are just the latest mammal to show up starving on Pacific beaches. Guadalupe fur seals and California sea lions are also showing signs of starvation throughout California’s Pacific coastline.
We discussed a few weeks back how warming sea temperatures can impact species distributions, specifically fish species. With many of these fish migrating to new, more suitable habitats, some marine mammals are losing their source of food. Although adult seals, sea lions, and whales may be able to adapt and find new prey items, pups that rely on food readily available near shore have no backup plan. These seals play a crucial role in Pacific ecosystems, so declines in their populations could have significant impacts for marine habitats, Pacific fisheries, and ecotourism along the coast.
Unfortunately, we appear to be experiencing what happens when juvenile seal pups cannot find sufficient food. However, there are ways you can help. If you live on the coast, volunteer your time with a Marine Mammal Stranding Network. If volunteering isn’t your thing, download Speak Up For Blue’s 10 tips to conserve the ocean to learn what you can do as an individual to prevent ocean acidification, rising sea surface temperatures, plastic pollution, and other threats to our marine wildlife.
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